Did you know that high cholesterol isn’t just something adults have to worry about? High cholesterol levels are on the rise in young children and teens. You can safely assume that high cholesterol will continue to plague them well into adulthood. As you can imagine, the risk of cholesterolrelated health problems increase.

To help combat this phenomenon you need to know the risks. Like everyone, children’s bodies need a little bit of cholesterol. Healthy amounts of cholesterol protect nerves, make cell tissues, and produce hormones. Conversely, if the body has too much cholesterol then it can damage blood vessels. Too much cholesterol can build up along blood vessel walls and form fatty deposits known as plaque. For some children with poor diets, that plaque can begin to form when they’re very young. This most likely occurs when they eat a poor diet for a continued period of time.

As it does in adults, high cholesterol levels increase your child’s risk of stroke, heart disease, and other cholesterol-related diseases. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for people in the United States. These risks increase exponentially in people who:
• Have diabetes
• Have poor eating habits
• Have a family history of heart disease
• Smoke
• Don’t exercise

WHERE DOES CHOLESTEROL COME FROM?
We get some cholesterol from foods like eggs, meats, dairy products. In the body, the liver makes the cholesterol our body requires to function properly

UNDERSTANDING THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GOOD AND BAD CHOLESTEROL
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) are considered bad cholesterol. These lipoproteins deliver cholesterol to the body, but unfortunately, some people’s bodies make too much bad cholesterol because they eat diets high in saturated fats, trans fats, and dietary cholesterol.

Good cholesterol, or as they’re medically known, high-density lipoproteins (HDL) remove cholesterol from the blood. A higher level of HDL helps to protect against heart disease. Getting the recommended amount of physical exercise can increase the body’s HDL cholesterol levels. The combination of proper exercise, eating well, and avoiding trans fats can also increase HDL levels in the body.

WHEN TO TEST YOUR CHILD FOR HIGH CHOLESTEROL
Generally, a child doesn’t need to be tested for high cholesterol unless they have the risk factors or there’s a cause for concern. Children with some ailments or conditions should be tested. For instance, a child living with diabetes might do well to have their levels checked.

Causes of high cholesterol
• Obesity
• Lack of exercise
• Family history of high cholesterol

Tips to help prevent high cholesterol in your child:

• Promote healthy eating. Make sure your child has five servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
• Serve low-fat proteins, whole grains, and vegetables with every meal • Avoid saturated and trans fats
• Avoid fast-foods
• Encourage physical activity
• Limit screen time Remember the keys to good health are a good, clean diet, plenty of rest, exercise, and understanding your risk factors.

Do not give your child any overthe-counter cholesterollowering medications. Leave that to the child’s doctor to prescribe if necessary. As always, If you have any questions or concerns, consult your child’s pediatrician.

By Harold Levi

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